Sunday, Easter Sunday that is, I was going to go do my grocery shopping for the month. No particular reason for that day, just needed to get it done. After all, my days kind of all run together, so which day I do my errands isn't really important. So I got to the shopping center, and to my surprise, all the stores were closed. I was kind of confused, but couldn't do much about it, so I headed home. Most of the way convenience stores, restaurants and pubs were open as usual, but as I drove back, I noticed all the big stores were closed along the way. Imagine Wal-Mart and all the malls being closed on the Sunday of a 4-day weekend. Hard to imagine, isn't it?
I mentioned it to a co-worker that night, and he told me something that surprised me a little. Actually, a lot. They were all closed because it's the law. Based on religion, which happens, but still seems strange. Much like the United States, the United Kingdom used to have 'blue laws'. Essentially, stores couldn't be open on Sunday because it was the Sabbath. The only place to spend your money was the collection plate. For a country where only 10% of the population attends church and religion isn't all that important, the church still has a lot of power.
Remember, it is a state church, and the head of the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is appointed by the monarch, even though it is really the Prime Minister. That's the Church of England, for those that don't know. The Anglican Church as its known around the world, and the Episcopal Church in the states. Yep, England's answer to Catholicism. According to my co-worker, the law was changed awhile back to allow big stores to stay open on Sundays, but with the agreement that they would be closed on Easter. Convenience stores, restaurants, and pubs, which had always been open on Sundays, were exempt form this. So eating and drinking is allowed, but not buying stuff. I guess I'm okay with that, fundamentally speaking.
I don't remember this from last year, although I was here. I wasn't working at the time, and hadn't been for 5 months. I didn't have the money to go shopping, regardless of whether or not the stores were open. I had been here a few times in April before, but not on Easter. So a new thing for me, entirely. As stated many times, this isn't meant to be an insult, but informative. I remember living in Georgia in the mid-'80's and not being able to buy beer on a Sunday. Even worse, when I was forced to live in Kansas in 2005, you still couldn't buy beer on a Sunday there, either. You could drive to a bar, drink there, and drive home, but not buy it a store and take it home to drink.
So in two different countries, one with a state church, and one with separation of church and state, some of the same archaic religious traditions still dominate, and saving you soul trumps saving your dough.